You’ll probably know you’re at Art House Charlotte when you step onto a front walk in SouthPark covered in clean graffiti by #TheSavageWay. You’ll definitely know once you walk through the front door and step through an entryway opening into two rooms filled with canvases and frames.
Most of Art House owner Judith Weston Voglesonger’s current inventory is in this main area, but some of it overflows into her hallway and other rooms in the house. She has about 200 mixed media pieces in her possession at the moment, from paintings to photography.
And when she hosts an art show, she places pieces all over the house – with plenty of candles lit for ambiance. She’s a strong believer that fragrance immediately affects the mood and experience of a gallery.
“Smell is the first thing that hits you when you walk in,” she told me, as I breathed in the scent of warm sandalwood burning from a Target candle.
Voglesonger, 41, started her art acquisitions in Hawaii, where she worked as an assistant for the Twigg-Smith family’s contemporary museum of art in Honolulu. When she moved back to the mainland, she was determined to find affordable art to purchase herself.
In 2009, she launched her own art-selling business, JWV Artists, in Charlotte, where she moved for her former husband’s job. She started selling the works of a French artist, then got her big break when a local designer introduced her to artist Marcy Gregg. With her acquisition of Gregg’s works, Voglesonger’s collection grew rapidly.
Now, she has an evolving list of about 20 featured artists, local and out-of-state. She test markets new artists for three months prior to signing them on.
So why the home gallery? Voglesonger has always consulted from home, but renting a space for a gallery wasn’t feasible for her budget. And she quickly found that hosting pop-up art shows at wine bars, restaurants, doctors offices – you name it – was not the right model for her.
“It’s all trial and error,” she said.
What works for her, she’s found, is maintaining a home gallery (without listing her address on her website) that brings in visitors by appointment. Her location in the Mountainbrook neighborhood, which she laughingly said holds the misfits and hippies of SouthPark like herself, makes the art accessible to her demographic (mostly women, or men buying for their wives). And it makes her accessible to her three school-aged kids.
“My niche is people like me,” she said. She caters to ages 30-60 or so, and incomes from $100,000-$350,000 a year.
“They have the means to purchase original art, but they don’t necessarily have the desire, the inclination to walk into an art gallery to do it,” she said. “So I kind of just make the process more approachable and less intimidating.”
That added level of approachability definitely kicks in when her dog is barking in excitement in the background, or when she’s in the middle of washing dishes and a client comes by.
She also doesn’t expect her clients to be art savvy. “They just have to follow their eye and pick what they like,” she said, adding that figures, nudes and abstract work are trending. Her goal is to choose art that is relevant and contemporary for people to purchase now.
And she’s fine if those people are checking out the art while she’s sitting at her desk in yoga pants or dealing with her two cats, one dog, or three kids. It’s her house, after all.
“I don’t want people to feel like when they walk into my house they’re going to get some sort of a pristine environment, because I’m a real person,” she said. “I want people to feel comfortable when they walk in.”
So look for that sidewalk graffiti in SouthPark. And when you do walk into Art House, get comfy and breathe in the scent of sandalwood.
Photos: Katie Toussaint, Brooke Brown